7 Spin Music: A New Business Spin
by Kevan Breitinger
Some of the best things in life start out completely unintentionally, almost without our even noticing. Such is the case of upstart 7 Spin Music label, home of Heath McNease, Red Umbrella, Sevenglory, and Hello Kelly, among others. Founder Peter Khosla had absolutely no musical inklings; rather, his Indian parents expected both he and his brother to be doctors. Given the fact that Peter went on to mentor several notable Christian bands and establish a unique Christian music label and his brother is a worship leader, it would seem that God had other plans.
Back in the fall of ’95, Peter volunteered to set up chairs for a concert of an unknown band passing through. He hit it off with the long-haired frontman …. and a long-standing association with Jars of Clay was born. Khosla went on to bring in up-and-comers from Earthsuit and Sixpence, to Fred Hammond and Stacie Orrico, and ended up with a position with Indiana Wesleyan University as Concert Coordinator, as well as Student Body President. The mission of the college was to develop “world changers,” a la Briner’s “Roaring Lambs,” and this message and Khosla’s own entrepreneurial creativity dovetailed powerfully with his spiritual yearnings. Another musical mentor was born.
Still not yet recognizing his calling by graduation time, Khosla politely turned down a job offer from a Nashville booking agency. While attending law school, he met with a local band, at the time named Bliss (later Sevenglory), whom he agreed to manage part time. He soon found himself arranging booking as well for that band and others, and within a year, things had changed drastically. Khosla was now attending school part-time and doing music business full-time. Newly married, he converted a room in his home to an office, which soon began to do double duty as a hotel room for bands Khosla booked locally.
Within two more years (and a bigger apartment), the bands he was managing and booking for had come to depend on him for more. They needed to record. Khosla knocked on all the traditional label doors but got nowhere. In a meeting with a local Christian businessman about radio, the talk turned to the advantages of the upcoming digitalized format. The man was intrigued with Khosla’s entrepreneurial skills and insights and offered financial backing; within a short time, new label 7 Spin was born. Finally those law school classes paid off, as Khosla was now writing contracts for the artists he was finding, signing, booking, consulting for, and promoting.
When I remark on his remarkable capabilities, Khosla is quick to deflect my admiration. “We were just ahead of the curve a little,” he demurs. “I am not especially gifted, but all of us involved are unique. I just walked through the doors as God opened them. Or maybe I ran energetically as opposed to walked,” laughs the man who has been found in his office typing for 16 consecutive hours. “I was the product of my circumstances and exposure to many influences and experiences at school and in the field. It could have been anyone. And they would probably have gotten it done faster, with more attention to detail and more focus.”
Apart from his humility, Khosla’s approach to community is also noteworthy. Having outgrown the second apartment building, the various people associated with 7 Spin continue to live in a small complex owned by friends of the label. After its somewhat accidental beginning, this home base now provides a usually short-term living solution for band members, management, and even interns, while their in-house legal counsel/financial management officer has rented rooms in a property nearby to band members and the label book-keeper. Khosla is honest as usual when asked what community and accountability is like in such a set-up.
“The type of community we have is repulsing at times, so you think it can’t be right. But then you realize maybe you have never previously experienced true community, and this is exactly what it is like. Yes, the weaker parts of us are repulsed, but our spirits are lifted here and the good outweighs the bad. Accountability here is a given whether you want it or not. It’s hard to say one thing in church when you are doing a Monday night service together and then act another way in the office the next day when the secretary, also your neighbor 10 feet away, was with you and hears you do both. At the same time, if the secretary is also a band wife she knows how you make decisions, and learns to trust you differently than a spouse who may never meet you but only hears about the manager/agent/label guy through others,” shares Khosla. Keep in mind that this team of people also spent the better part of a year or two putting a service together based on the texts of Luke and Acts, and it’s easy to understand the truth of Khosla’s words.
A final unique and must-mention element of 7 Spin’s distinctive management approach is in the rubber-meets-the-road reality of profit-sharing. Khosla reports, “To date, all of our record deals have been similarly structured in that the label makes no money until the artist does. In the conventional record deal, the band pays nearly the entire cost of making an album and bringing it to market. In our model, 100% of the revenue into the label comes in and goes to offset the cost of bringing the album to market. Once “break even” is reached, the band and label split the profit according to the terms of the contract.” He continues, “A band who recoups under this type of model will do so three to ten times faster than under the conventional model.” Actually, I was surprised to learn from Khosla that probably 80% of artists never recoup.
Khosla is also honest to say, laughing, “Now, it’s not easy, and certainly I think the verdict is a couple of years away yet. But I feel like it’s important to do what’s right for the artist, and I feel like we’ve seen that work. Even if it means you part ways, you part ways on a healthy note.”
Peter Khosla is shaking up the way traditional music business is done, and personally investing in the lives and music of the label’s artists. The good news is that it is working professionally as well as spiritually: Sevenglory’s first single, “Just Me,” from upcoming album Atmosphere, dropping Oct. 30., is 7 Spin’s first top ten single on R&R. This week they start recording the new Hello Kelly album in the recording studio built in the basement next door. Everything about their intriguing story connects with my inner rebel and predisposes me toward this new album. But one last piece of fortunate, good news about 7 Spin: they tend to find artists as fresh as their perspective.
For more information on 7Spin Music, visit www.7spinmusic.com.